Unemployment Down, Hopes Rise on February Data

March 8, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The unemployment rate inched down for the second consecutive month, data from the US Department of Labor (DoL) shows, giving Americans new evidence of an economic recovery.

February’s data show the unemployment rate inching down to a four month low of 5.5%, from the previous month’s 5.6%. According to a survey by Thomson Global Markets, economists had anticipated an increase in the jobless rate to as much as 5.8%.

According to the DoL, non-farm payroll employment was up by 66,000 in February, following several months of large job losses. 

The DoL attributed most of the increase in payrolls to an increase in payrolls in the service sector, which added 97,000 jobs over the month. According to the DoL, the retail-trade industry added 58,000 jobs, offsetting a 58,000 decline in jobs in the manufacturing industry.

But those looking for signs of weakness could still point to the length of the average work week – unchanged at 34.1 hours – while average hourly earnings rose a slim 0.1% to $14.63.

Since the US entered into a recession in March 2001, more than 1.4 million jobs have been shed, with 1.2 million of those coming between September and January.